CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Boeing South Carolina workers could vote on whether to unionize next month.
In dueling press conferences held Friday morning, a representative with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers announced plans to file for an election on whether to unionize and Boeing Vice President and General Manager Joan Robinson-Berry said the company would use every resource they have to make sure workers say "no."
Lead IAM organizer Mike Evans said he hopes Boeing's thousands of state employees will say "yes."
"Workers at Boeing deserve to be treated fairly and they deserve to be treated with respect," Evans said at 7 a.m. Friday. "Over the past year and a half, management at Boeing has repeatedly failed to make improvements they promised workers. Instead, workplace policies remain inconsistent and raises remain subjective. Boeing workers deserve better than that."
IAM plans to file their petition for the election with the National Labor Board today. The election is set to begin in February should be around 23 days. Evens said employees will be able to cast their ballots in a private and neutral area to prevent discrimination. A majority of more than 50 percent of votes is needed to secure union representation.
"We're gonna utilize whatever resource we need to be successful in winning this campaign," Boeing's Robinson-Berry replied at a news conference two hours later. She said they would do so while still focused on building airplanes and rolling out the new Boeing 787-10, which is being built exclusively in South Carolina.
"Boeing believes firmly that a union is not in the best interest of Boeing South Carolina," Robinson-Berry said. "That's been our consistent position and we will never change that."
In response to complaints that local Boeing employees are paid less than those in Washington, Robinson-Berry said the company pays at or above market value.
"We have no energy and time to focus on things that are negative," Robinson-Berry said. "We only have energy to focus on things that matter to our customers, and that's bringing value each and every day."
The machinists union has been trying to unionize the plant for seven years.
In 2015, the IAM tried to get workers to sign a petition to form a union. A spokesperson claims they withdrew that petition after Boeing officials created a "toxic environment" for their workers during the campaign.
"Withdrawing this petition is not an option," Evans said. "Boeing workers will vote."
As recent as Tuesday, Boeing SC posted to Facebook urging people to say no to the IAM's attempt at forming a union. According to WeAreBoeingSC.com, if a union wins an election, the union would become the "exclusive" representative of all employees in the voting group, regardless of their vote to join the union.
South Carolina is a Right to Work state where union membership cannot be mandated for employment.